“My Incredibly Bizarre Email Exchange With AL Sec. of State John Merrill: ‘BradCast’ 5/31/2018”

Brad Blog:

All of which brings us to last week, when a federal court in New York determined that public officials — in that case, the President of the United States — was in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment for blocking perceived “political opponents” on Twitter. (My interview with one of the plaintiffs in that case is here.)

Before we covered the ruling on a BradCast last week with University of Kentucky College of Law constitutional expert Joshua A. Douglas, who had also been blocked by Merrill (my interview with him on that earlier last year is here), I sought comment from the Secretary as to whether he intended to restore those he’d blocked, given the federal court ruling.

The subsequent string of bizarre emails [PDF] and phone calls I then received from the state’s top election official is remarkable, and we share those on today’s show, in the interest of Alabama voters who head to the polls next week.

In addition to steadfastly refusing to unblock the election law experts and journalists he’s blocked on Twitter, Merrill unleashes a number of unhinged and often inexplicable rants in response to polite queries about both the Twitter blocks and whether Merrill has asked county election officials to set their vote tabulation computers to preserve scanned ballot images in the upcoming primary, in order to make public oversight of results somewhat easier.

At several points, Merrill’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director John Bennett attempted to intercede via both email and phone. As I explain on the show today, the call from Bennett was very pleasant and he seemed to me, in truth, somewhat embarrassed by his boss’ behavior. But he promised to get back to me after looking into both the Twitter ruling and the issue of Alabama’s ES&S computer tabulation systems capturing digital ballot images. A note he sent shortly thereafter confirmed that they do. (See the PDF linked above for details.)

But, then Merrill blew things up again, with another string of emailed rants. Among the odd attacks from the emails in which the first term Sec. of State describes himself as “a nationally recognized expert in the field of elections”, Merrill charges that I have a “problem…bigger than one that I have the ability to solve” (but refuses to specify what that “problem” might be), that I live with my mother (I don’t), “has absolutely no idea what [I’m] talking about” (despite some 15 years of covering elections and voting systems as a journalist), and should try to “get a job with an elections program system” so I can “contribute to the discussion as an expert in the field”. That’s just a taste.

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